“I want to be the voice that I couldn’t hear when I was young.”
It’s a simple yet powerful statement from Maz De Vita, lead singer of Australia’s most electrifying punk band, WAAX. And yet, if you look at the way the Brisbane five-piece’s career has evolved throughout the years, it articulates everything perfectly.
When they emerged in the mid-teens, WAAX’s early singles, ‘I For An Eye’ and ‘Wisdom Teeth,’ were tinged with the angry teething you’d expect from a baby band, fresh and fiercely ambitious. They possessed an intensity and barely-controlled chaos that had been missing from Australian music for years. De Vita’s vocals shifted between bark and howl, her unbridled passion and seductively melodic flow was loud but full of hooks, and her lyrics were aimed at the world – concepts, ideas and politics at large.
Then came 2017’s Wild & Weak EP – a new line-up, a more mature sound, and this time a new songwriting lens. The focus of the lyrics was set inward, and for the first time De Vita took to task her internal struggles as an exercise in catharsis.
The result was an undeniably huge creative leap forward. Singles ‘Same Same,’ ‘This Everything,’ and the EP’s title track, saw fans connect with WAAX in a way like never before. As a direct result, their popularity grew exponentially, as did their striking reputation as a live band. Relentless touring only reinforced that growth, as radio stepped up to the plate and carried these honest and hard-nosed new tunes across the globe. Now we land where we are today, at the feet of the release of the next phase of their career and the immense new single ‘Labrador.’
It doesn’t take long upon listening to realise that once again you’re in brand-new WAAX territory in ‘Labrador.’ The song starts off gradually, easing its foot onto the accelerator as stabbing guitar notes and echoey drums next door subtly build the momentum. Above all else though, the focus continues to be drawn to De Vita’s concentrated vocals, sounding smoother and yet more emotionally raw than ever. It’s those lyrics though, that really suck you in.
“This song is the first time I’ve ever spoken so candidly about my past,” De Vita elaborates.
“The title is named after the suburb where I spent a lot of time when I was in my late teens and it’s where a significant relationship ended. Basically, the song underpins the way I felt around the time. I feel like this was the time I began to struggle with depression and when I was about 18, battled with anorexia. When my relationship ended, I didn’t really write music for a couple of years, I smashed my guitar. I felt kind of worthless. I clung to self-deprecation, I felt safe there. I had voices around me that said I wouldn’t amount to anything musically and I thought ‘you were right all along, you’re better than me. I’m never enough.’”
It’s an assured step for someone who’s already got such a strong reputation as a performer that puts it all on the line. However, it’s indicative of just how far she and her band have come since their early days. They’ve always had the walk… now they’re prepared to have the talk.
It’s not always an easy listen either. Lines like, “I’ve been binging / I’ve been purging / I’ll be skinny / At least that’s something,” stab you right in the heart. They’re sonically reinforced by the band at large – Chris Antolak and Ewan Birtwell trading guitar parts, Tom ‘Griff’ Griffin locking down the bassline and Tom Bloomfield keeping it all tight on drums – only adds to the power of the song, particularly when everything explodes at the chorus and it bares its teeth with the signature WAAX aggression you knew was always bubbling below the surface. And again, it’s all tapping into those emotions and nerve-endings De Vita finally feels free to embrace, and behind her bandmates feed into that strength and push it forward.